Mi Sei Mancata

Airports have always been a place that I feel comfortable. It’s just full of people and energy and movement.  It’s always busy.  People are coming and going; some running, some half asleep and barely walking.  It’s like it’s so chaotic that it’s intimate.  If it wasn’t so busy, more people would notice the other people.  But they rarely do in airports.  Everyone has somewhere to be by a certain time and the chaos provides an amazing mask over the intimacy that occurs at every airport.  If you ever want to witness a real hug, go to an airport.  I doubt there are very many other places whom’s walls have witnessed much more pure showings of love and reunions; goodbyes and don’t go’s; endings and beginnings.

When I used to get really homesick back when I first moved to Florida, I would drive from the beach all the way to the airport.  I’d pick a spot depending on my mood.  Downstairs in the baggage claim or upstairs at the security check point, and set up to people watch.  I guess it was kind of weird, but oh well.  I liked the pure signs of emotion people display there.  Mostly, I liked the reunions. The embraces that followed the lighting up of each party’s face when they saw each other for the first time.  I loved hearing the “I missed you”‘s and watching the guy swing the girl around in his arms.

One day I was sitting in one of the rocking chairs by the security gate, when an old lady sat next to me.  She asked me who I was waiting for and I told her no one, just liked watching people come back together.  She told me she was waiting on her husband who had been gone for a week to go on a trip she couldn’t go on.  The woman told me that they had been married 43 years and that this was their first separation for an entire week.  In slight disbelief I inquired if she meant since they were younger.  She quickly replied that she meant since the night they were married.  She added in that they had not gotten married to spend nights alone and that they had agreed not to do that throughout their life together.  She told me that she had never missed someone so much.  She added in that my generation has gotten very accustomed to missing people who we supposedly love and it was a foolish trait; that you should only miss people when there is nothing you can do about being without them, like in death.  She told me we had it all wrong, that we miss the people we’ve left, instead of just staying with them.  When her husband came through the gate he exclaimed “Mi sei mancata!” very loudly and again and again and again.  It’s Italian for I missed you, which I knew from my family.  They had one of the most genuine hugs I am sure that I will ever see and probably that those airport walls had ever seen.  They walked away together with her arm around his waist and his over her shoulders, totally defying their old age by replacing it with their youthful love.

Lately this whole exchange has been flashing in my mind.  I’d like to say I’m not sure why, but I know.  For some reason in the last few months, I’ve gotten contacted by a lot of my x-boyfriends.  Some of them texts, a few emails, a couple drunk dial calls, and a few sober ones too.  I’m not sure what alert went out to all of them that made them decide to all try the “see how you’re doing” convo or whatever, but the attempts have been fairly close together, so maybe it’s the way the planets are aligned or something.  All of the relationships ended in different ways, and I used to just think that I needed to take more responsibility for their endings, because I have repeatedly looked back and been like.. wow.. I did nothing wrong.  But breakups and ghostings kept happening and I started to think that maybe it was something I was doing wrong.  Some of the guys that have contacted me lately were quick little short stories, some longer chapters, and two of them I thought I loved.  All contact came out of no where, at different times, in different forms.  They all had one thing in common though. At some point in the conversation, they told me they missed me.  Some of them made me want to laugh, a few made me want to cry, and for a couple there was no reaction.  After the third conversation with an x and the same line being repeated, I decided to try and figure out how I felt. After the basic “yeah of course you miss me, I’m the shit, I told you you’d miss me” attitude wore off, I was left with a more realistic 28 year old reaction.. When do I get the one guy who doesn’t leave?  I am currently not dead, and although I may have wished it upon a few of the guys who reached out, here they are, still alive!  So.. why now do they miss me?  Is it because they’re lonely? Did I post a super fierce selfie or something? Just.. why now? For some, years later and for others, months later.  I became angry almost when I was woken up at 230am by another x the next week and then when a text from an x came through a few days later.  Why are they missing me I kept thinking in my head and I was getting angry.  I wanted to ask all of them, so I did.  The responses didn’t satisfy or put out the pissed-offness that was gently yanking on my insides.  They all told me similar things, none of it helped.  Then I realized it’s because I wasn’t asking the right question.  I didn’t want to know why they missed me all of a sudden, honestly I could careless, I had moved on.  What I guess I wanted to know was why did they ever leave in the first place.  A question which I refused to ask any of them because I don’t think I’m ready for those answers yet.  I’ve fielded one or two since the big epiphany, luckily one was a text and one was an email.  Both I just responded with mi hai lasciato.

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12 months

When you sign a lease, you never really know how many things can change over that year. You make plans and you try to map out your life, but usually, it turns out nothing like what you planned. We signed the lease to our first place together and he had plans to propose and I had plans to accept if he ever asked. I spent a lot of time decorating and trying to make it feel like a home.. building a “nest egg” most of my customers called it. I started planning a wedding, he started planning our financial future. It was planned, everything was mapped out. The date, the venue, his job path, all planned and ready to go.

What you never seem to include in your plans are: the fights, the speed bumps, the social media lusting, the time apart that separates two people who called each other best friends, the temptations you get presented with by being a bartender, the friends who have terrible intentions for your relationship, the distance, the stress, and the toll all these take on you. Nobody ever plans a break up, especially to an engagement. When you’re caught in the spiderweb of it, you don’t even really see it coming. Maybe because it’s too close, ya know? Maybe it was just so much focus on the future and some day and a year from now that you get blindsided by the present. Maybe it was all the times that we didn’t say what we thought, that I didn’t ask for help when I started noticing other people, that he didn’t ask for help and tell me he used instagram to stare at other girls. Maybe it was pride or a lack of a true feeling of protection in our relationship that stopped us from addressing our weaknesses and struggles in our present and covering them with plans for our future.

The first night we had the keys, we had a mattress on the floor of our room, a record player and a modest mouse album, a bottle of champagne, some vodka and orange juice. We were happy. We drank to our plans. Enjoyed our new, empty house and slept in each other’s arms on the undressed mattress.

It’s funny how one year, twelve months, can change everything. I walked around the empty house, drank a bottle of champagne to honor our failure, and slept on the floor. I woke up and took one look around. Left the keys on the counter, locked the door, closed it, and left. Called the office and told them everything was out.

12 months. Huh. What a fucking difference.

“You could replace that for free”

“You know in Florida you get free windshields, right Cam?” My friend commented as he jumped into the front seat of my SUV.
“Yeah, but it’s not broken.” I immediately replied.
“I guess it’s not, but it’ll splinter soon for sure.”
“It’s been like that since December and it hasn’t. I don’t think it will.”

This is the conversation that I seem to have often with friends when I drive my car on our outings – which is very rare because my air conditioning is currently broken and we live in Florida, so I’m usually riding shotgun in their cars with the windows up while nice, cool, refreshing air streams out of their vents. There’s apparently a law in Florida that if your windshield has a crack or – in my case – a small ding from a rock flying into it, that you can get it replaced for free as long as you have car insurance.

This law really frustrates me. My windshield is completely functional. There is a ding in it that resembles a tiny bullet hole, but it doesn’t even go through the thickness of the glass. If you run your finger over the inside of the glass, you can’t even notice that it is there. The windshield is perfectly fine and still does the job that it is designed to do: it stops the wind, it prevents bugs from hitting me in the face, it blocks rain, and it protects me from dust and other little flying rocks from harming me. It has been completely reliable; the ding is proof of it doing it’s job protecting me.

See the whole ding incident happened back in December. I decided that I was going to fight for my relationship to work regardless of the foolish mistake I made to put it in jeopardy. I reserved a hotel room in Bayton Rouge, packed up Christmas presents, loaded up the dogs, took off from work, and drove ten hours straight through by myself until I arrived. I sat in the room that I had given Nick the address to, set up a Christmas tree, put his presents under it, and waited… Just waited to see if he would show up or if now my Christmas would be me and our dogs alone in a hotel room in Louisiana instead of at home in Florida. He did. We were fine like we always seem to be when we can actually just be together, in person. It’s like when we’re apart we listen to our brains and our friends and just everything negative and evil that has always tried to break us; and when we are apart from each other, all that stuff succeeds. We let everything and everyone convince us to fall out of love. Then when we see each other, it’s like all that stuff gets quieted and our hearts and all the good things in the world prevail and we are right where we left off. We feel at peace together and it’s even more than that, it’s like nothing can break us. Anything that was hard or we were angry about or worth ending over gets dismissed and it’s just us, together, peaceful, happy, and in love. I have a theory that we could make it through anything, which people don’t understand because we don’t even talk right now. But I just don’t think that they get it or I guess maybe I don’t. I’m still pretty sure it’ll all be okay.

So we spend a great week in Louisiana for Christmas. We were driving back to the room after the bonfires on the levee on Christmas Eve when a truck on the highway threw a rock into my windshield. It left this tiny crater on the outside of the glass on the passenger side. Nothing big. It hasn’t been an issue and I don’t even notice it because I don’t sit in the passenger seat.

Everybody says I should replace it. When I ask why they usually respond with things like “it’s free” or “it’s easy, they can do it in your driveway” or something about convenience. The other reasons I usually get are all about the possibility of it getting worse, that it’s past fixing and will definitely get worse so I should replace it now before it does.

These are just a few mentalities of my generation and this day and age that drive me insane. I don’t hate many things (anymore) but I do hate this way of thinking. This huge thought process of getting rid of something on the possibility of it getting worse. This annoying habit of throwing things away that are still performing and functioning perfectly fine because you can get one for free, without dings, easily. That windshields in Florida are so plentiful that as soon as even the most miniscule problem or default or difficulty pops up, just get a new one that has nothing wrong with it, and then replace that one if anything else dings it.

I’m not replacing my windshield. It’s still performing it’s job without any issues. Yes, it may not be perfect, there may be a ding. I could get another one and start over, without any dings. I don’t care how many other windshields there are here.  Mine wasn’t perfect, but is it broken enough to quit, throw away, replace? I don’t think so. I think that ding gives it character. I think that ding shows something we conquered together. I think that ding symbolizes a memory. I think that memory might not be a perfect, happy one but that I’d rather continue making more dings and risk the possibility of it spidering and eventually breaking than giving up on something that still wants to perform its part of our deal. Replacing it with a new one may be easy and convenient and there are tons of companies to choose from, but I’ll stick with what I’ve got. I have no interest in predicting a possible failure based on one imperfection. I have no interest in throwing something away that still has so, so much life left in it.

But hey, that’s just me I guess.

Back to Me

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 

Today was the first day in a long time that I realized that I am slowly becoming more like the old Cam, and I am extremely excited about it. What spawned this realization? I was talking to my friend who moved to California and just telling him about what I did today. Towards the end of my list of today’s events, he just started laughing. I am a very hilarious person, but at that particular point in the conversation I hadn’t used any humor, so I questioned what spawned his roll of laughter. He paused and said, “I missed you. It’s good to have you back. Ole happy, hippie Cam!”.

We talked for a little while longer, said our goodbyes, and hung up the phone. I really started to think about what he had said. I noticed that I had to fight the urge to laugh as well. “I am back,” I thought to myself, smiling. I knew, and felt, exactly what he had meant.

It’s hard to put your past self into words. So I’m just going to act like I’m describing a stranger who wasn’t me because it’s easier for me to articulate my former qualities that way. I’ve changed so much that looking back to the past on who I used to be is kind of like observing another person anyways.

She’s a health freak- I’m talking 100% external and internal. She doesn’t drink any alcohol or smoke cigarettes. She grocery shops in the organic section and at farmer’s markets. She makes her own almond milk, peanut butter, vegan cream cheese, and mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. She is a fantastic cook. While everyone else is sleeping, she’s at the gym. When she gets home, she meal preps. She reads a lot because she enjoys it. She doesn’t have a television because she doesn’t enjoy it. She spends as much time outside as possible. She walks her dog and talks about her like she’s a person. On the back of her dresser, which doubles as a headboard, she has hand written a million different quotes in different color markers. They range from “Live, Laugh, Love” to “Don’t waste your time and energy on feeling envy or jealousy. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself”. She has the most brilliant smile and strangers often stop her at the grocery store or the bank to tell her how happy she looks. She holds the door open for people. She pulls over and helps old ladies on the side of the road carry things. She has conversations with bums about why they shouldn’t smoke when they are digging in ashtrays for stubs, but then tells them that if they are going to, to at least smoke their own and hands them money to go buy some. She is kind. She doesn’t judge or think mean thoughts towards strangers, remembering that everyone is fighting their own battle and that she honestly believes a chain of kind events towards people who need them could help end the world’s problems. She’s religious and a Christian in her heart and actions, but has no idea of that yet because a boy hasn’t given her a bible hidden in a stack of books, so her brain hasn’t learned it just yet. She glows with happiness, inside and out. It’s not an act, it’s just her. She’s fun, spontaneous, and a genuine good listener. She is a loyal friend and will get out of bed at 3 am to give her drunk ones rides, they call her the Cam Cab. She’s never in a hurry. She isn’t worried about money [which let me explain the thing is that I had way less then, I just had this weird/awesome way of knowing and trusting that everything always worked out]. She inspires people and teaches them things, and doesn’t know she’s doing it until they tell her, sometimes weeks or years later. She has plans to move to Italy to teach English. She has been applying for a volunteership to build the National Park of Patagonia and thinks that she will finally be accepted for that 6 month program this year. She believes in soulmates. She doesn’t believe in looking for them. She’s hard to tie down to one place, one person, one job, one life. Traveling makes her feel more at home than anywhere she’s ever lived. She wants to do great things; not like be famous or rich great things, but like make a difference and help people great things. She has no idea how to accomplish that.

I guess that’s the most of it. It’s crazy how far away from yourself you can become. You change one thing for one person, then you sacrifice this thing for another, then you stop doing this because of that… next thing you know describing who you used to be is like looking at a stranger. I don’t point fingers and I don’t believe in regrets. I changed because I made choices that led to decisions that lead to actions that caused these changes. It was totally under my control. It’s funny how when you stop concentrating on yourself and start focusing on someone else, how easy it is to become a ghost of the person you once were.

But today, that ghost must have jumped inside me. Here’s the events I was explaining to my friend that made him point this out.

I woke up at 5 am to drink a protein smoothie made with fruit & veggies in my blender and go to the gym for spin class at 6. After spin, I worked out more and came home. I made breakfast which consisted of eggs cooked with cottage cheese on protein toast with avocado. I walked my dogs down to the preserve and back, which is about a four mile loop. I showered, threw on a bathing suit, and went and laid out at the beach for a while. I went grocery shopping at this place called Fresh Fields Farms [amazing!] and publix. While I was there, an old man told me that I looked like one of the happiest people he’d ever seen [I was visiting fantasy land in my mind and day dreaming about some happier memories about a year ago involving an old couple, grilled cheeses, and a past publix trip]. On the way home, I saw a lady with her 3 young kids waiting at the bus stop looking hot and aggravated, so I gave them a ride. It turned out being quite the ways away, about an hour longer than expected, so when I got home I spent some time cleaning where my ice cream melted all over my car. I cleaned my house and put some laundry away. I practiced Modest Mouse “Ocean Breathes Salty” and Willie Nelson “Always on my Mind” on guitar. On Tuesdays, I started a new routine of giving myself a facial from a mask I mix up of a bunch of stuff [activated charcoal, tea tree oil, rose-water, European clay powder, honey, and aloe- try it, it makes your skin so so so smooth]. Then I started meal prepping for the week, so I made cauliflower stirfry [no rice, you use the grated cauliflower as the rice], egg fritata, peanut butter protein waffles, 7 seed protein granola bars, salad with homemade guacamole for the dressing, baked chicken stuffed with homemade spinach pesto, and some gluten-free protein donuts for a treat on my high carb days. When my friend called I was reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was having a bad day so the phone call started with me telling him some advice and a cheesy “Old Cam quote” to back it up. I haven’t used a quote paired with some advice in a long, long time. It even felt familiar and happy to do it; and it was awesome to remember one after so long too. Then came the laughing.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can’t change the past. You can’t force people to love you and be with you. Today I realized that I can only look forward. I can go back to working on myself and being the person I loved and the friend I am called to be. I picked up a few new tricks during my relationship and they’ll come in handy, but it’s mostly time to revert back to the old, known, tried, and true methods. Hello, Happy Hippie Cam. Peace out negativity and fighting for things that just don’t deserve more efforts at this current point in time. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they never really did. The fact of the matter is, it’s all behind me now and all I can do is smile, accept it, and see what happens next.

Damn, I missed me.

Yes.

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There’s one three letter word in the English language that has a lot more power than people tend to give it. I realized this back in April when I decided to make that word a much more active part of my life. That word is “yes”. Simple enough, right? It’s a pretty common word that most people tend to use everyday. When I sat down and decided to start saying “yes” more often and more purposefully, I realized that I had been using it wrong for years. The problem is that most people use it as an answer to a question, which is what I often did. The thing about “yes” is that I think it is supposed to be used much more as an action; a promise to do something when the question is asked, and not just as a brush-off or acknowledgement of a request like it has turned into.

I realized that after being in a committed relationship that lead to an engagement for a few years, that at some point “yes” followed by an immediate action stopped existing and was replaced with saying things like “soon”, “let me check with Nick”, “let’s plan to do that”, or “definitely, I’ll call you when he gets back in town”. Before I knew it, I had done something which is very out of character for myself: absolutely nothing. I stopped working on myself. I stopped improving myself through new experiences and traveling, which is the way that I feel I grow and learn the most. I stopped being the impulsive, jump-in-the-car-and-go, down-for-anything, just-ask-and-she’s-in girl. I started waiting around. I started turning down things. I started making plans, 90% of which never happened because we never happened. Eventually, I lost my spontaneous reputation and people stopped asking me and inviting me on amazing adventures and to join in experiences. The calls from my friends became fewer and further between, then eventually stopped. My invites and questions asked became much more easier things- like a night out at the bar or a beach day drinking, which I’m at a point in my life where I really just dislike drinking as a social activity. It has lost its’ fulfillment and fun and appeal to me, so I eventually even said no to that, and became bored. Bored and waiting, all the time. I do not like to regret things, and I don’t regret very many things about our relationship, but I do regret the time I wasted and the things I said no to, for what turned out to be nothing. So after this parting of our ways at the end of April, I decided to get back to that girl I used to be. How? By saying yes and acting, not planning, but doing immediately.

The things that have happened in a little over a month have really opened my eyes to why I used to be so happy before. Yes is a very positive word, especially when it is acted out. I believe that positivity attracts positivity, I always have. One of my best friends approached me right at the end of April. A few years back I had driven across country randomly, a trip which started out as a 2 week visit to Memphis and became a 6 month long road trip coast to coast [that is the girl that I am trying to get back to.. if you could feel my heart ache for who I was back then while typing that sentence I think everyone would understand me much, much more]. Wes looked at me and said “Cam, you should drive with me to Cali and pull my last trailer of stuff out there. I’ll pay for everything and give you some money for missing work.” He moved out to Lake Tahoe in March and was back in Florida to pick up his dirt bikes and four wheelers. I immediately said “Yes”. Wes didn’t believe me, which kinda hurt to be honest. There was one time when my acceptance to the deal on the table wouldn’t have been a shock or misinterpreted as a joke. I told him yes again, and asked him when we were leaving. I got my shifts covered at work and we left 3 days later. “Yes” was as simple as that, it was a response, followed through with an action. The trip was great, not quite as long as my last coast to coast adventure, but it reminded me of a piece of myself that I had long buried and ignored.  I saw new things and met new people and got to travel. It was deep down good for my soul and began to bring back an older Cam that I wish I had never changed for anything.

The funny thing about saying yes is that once you do it, you seem to get more invitations to do new, fun, and exciting things. Which, thank my luck, have for some reason all been offered to me for free. In the last month and 13 days of changing my perspective of yes, I have: been on a cross country roadtrip, started professional guitar lessons, went to TPC at sawgrass, started violin lessons, been hiking in North Carolina, went on a camping trip to the springs, been wakeboarding, been off-shore fishing, got an amazing trainer and nutritionist, recieved an opportunity to live in Italy for a year with a job [which I haven’t exactly said yes to because that one unfortunately does require a little more planning but I am getting closer everyday], am going on a week long vacation to the Keys and staying in an amazing house in Marathon with boats & harleys, have been to the art museum downtown known as the Cummer [which I have wanted to do for a year but we never seemed to have time], and started this blog. All those things sound amazing, right? Well, ready for the real amazing part? I have actually done that entire list and have still made more money than I have spent [thank you Wes].
My advice for you: start saying yes and following through with an action and you might just be surprised at the chain of events it leads to!

 

One last thing.. for the person who I hope maybe one day is reading this, but probably isn’t. There have been a lot of hard questions I have said yes to too. Do you miss him? Do you know he’s slept with someone else already? Did you hear about St Patty’s day? Do you know he was on a date at European Street already? Do you really still love him? Do you really plan on not dating anyone for a year still? Do you honestly forgive him? Would you take him back if he showed up right now? You know that he probably is never going to show up again, he already moved on, right? You still plan on waiting?

Yes.

Life Lessons Taught by Two Dogs

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I have two dogs. As weird as it might sound, at some point in time, they became my best friends. They teach me things everyday and continue to amaze me with their understanding of my moods and needs. I don’t mean to sound like one of those crazy dog fanatics that tells you their dog’s thoughts, or their favorite toy, or their favorite treat, but I guess I am. At some point I became that lady who leaves the radio on for them when I leave, who grills them their own bones because all the ones at the store are unnatural and filled with preservatives, and who feels guilty if I don’t take them to the beach for an entire day once a week. I even celebrate their birthdays with them; which means they get a cake and ice cream [made gluten/dairy free and puppy approved], a trip to the pet store where they can pick anything out, and usually an extra long day at the beach followed by walking their favorite trails along the river.

Bear is the baby of the two, he just celebrated his 2nd birthday in March. He is a black lab and lives up to the typical lab traits that anyone who has ever had one can attest to- Bear loves two things: food and people, in that order. When Bear was picked out, his dad told me the story of how he selected him. Bear was born on a farm, where his litter lived in the barn. When his dad went to pick out the puppy he wanted, the other young puppies were out wandering around close to the people selling them. They had this big bowl and began to pour some puppy chow into it. The puppies gathered around the silver food bowl and began eating. That’s when Bear apparently came sprinting as fast as he could in his clumsy, uncoordinated puppy gallop from the barn; no doubt because he had already learned to associate the familiar ting-tinging sound of the kernels hitting the metal bowl as meal time. Once he got to the bowl, he pushed all his brothers and sisters out of the way and started feasting on the puppy chow from inside the middle of it. That’s the reason his dad picked him out of the litter. I shortly thereafter entered Bear’s life when he was about a month and a half old, and can tell you that in these past two years his personality has not changed. He is a very entitled dog; he believes he deserves everything that you have, especially food, and will head butt you, whine, or even bark at you until you share it. To say it in the most loving way possible, he’s kind of an asshole. He wants what he wants when he wants it, or he tends to whine and cry and get upset with me when I don’t allow him to partake in something. The other day I was eating a chocolate brownie [the healthy kind of course] and he began gently nudging my leg with his nose. As the remaining piece of brownie grew smaller and smaller, Bear knew his odds were growing less and less, so he began to whine and nudge harder. Now I’ve known him since he was a puppy and he is pretty much the most handsome dog in the entire history of any dog that has ever lived, so it breaks my heart not to give him a piece. I know that the brownie isn’t good for him and I don’t want him to get sick. As I finish it, he goes and lays down with a huge sigh, pouting, and ignoring me. “Bear, that would’ve made you sick and hurt you buddy,” I say to him, a reasoning that he wants nothing to do with, and he continues to whine under his breath. That’s when I learned a super important thing about life- from a dog. Maybe we want stuff that will hurt us, but we don’t know that it will hurt us and we still want it. Maybe God or the Universe or whatever your beliefs are, keeps it from us and doesn’t give it to us because they know that it will hurt us and cause us pain. Maybe we get all sad and pout when we don’t get who or what we want because we don’t understand that it’s in our best interest, that someone or something is really looking out for us by keeping them or it from us.

Reef is the dog I had first and she will be 6 years old on July 2nd. I’ve had her since she was 6 weeks old. What amazes me about Reef is how much she still loves me. I’m now 26 and I’d honestly say a somewhat put together and responsible person: I have a clean house, I rarely go out to all hours of the night, I go to the gym almost daily and feel that they deserve the same luxury of exercising often, and I do not remember the last time that I ran out of dog food without having another unopened bag in the pantry as back up. Well, 20 year old Camren was a completely different story. There were times Reef was definitely inside for 15 plus hours. There were multiple days where she ate what I ate- which sounds great except it was probably pizza or Ramon noodles or something along those lines of a broke college student’s budget. There were weeks that I didn’t walk her besides a quick bathroom run around the block. I know that almost every single set of parents out there tells their college kid not to get a dog [and parents don’t get too excited if any of you are reading this], but they are 100% right. Reef was shorted the first 3 years of her life waiting on me to grow up. Do you know what is mind blowing and amazing to me though? Reef never held a grudge. Reef was never mad at me. Reef never became bitter. Reef never acted like she forgave me and then in a fight a month later brought up the fact that I forgot to come home after work and in-between the bars to walk her or some other action she felt scorned over. She never remained angry at me although smiling and talking about how great everything was going to be only then to do some vengeful, hurtful stuff to get me back. I mean maybe she chewed up a few pairs of shoes or sunglasses when she felt she wasn’t getting attention, but that’s about it. Most importantly, Reef never left. She never even thought about leaving. She understood without questioning, she knew she loved me and she knew deep down embedded into the grains of her soul what that meant: that she was to stand by me through the good and the bad and to love me, no matter if in that moment I did or didn’t deserve it. Some people say that dogs are like their owners and they pick up certain traits from us. I believe that this is true, but sometimes I also think that the owners learn from their pets. I may have used to be selfish, hold grudges, never really understood what it meant to truly forgive someone, and been vengeful; but I can honestly say that because of Reef I am different. She taught me how to love even if the person doesn’t necessarily deserve it; she taught me how to forgive without ever being asked for forgiveness; she taught me that you never leave someone; and she taught me how to put myself second, to understand that my purpose here isn’t to make myself happy, but to live to make someone else happy.

Now, let me just reiterate that having a dog is great, having two dogs is a handful. It makes moving a pain because I’m a renter. They are expensive. I have to put their needs before mine. Both of my dogs were the bi-products of failed long term relationships. The first one, where Reef came into the picture, the boyfriend’s name was Nick. The second one, where Bear came from, the fiance’s name was also Nick. I used to have a lot of hope about maybe one day writing the x-fiance Nick back into the story, but Bear recently taught me the lesson which made me realize that probably won’t happen. I’m still on my way to accepting that and I’m okay with that. Reef and Bear will continue to teach me things about love, friendship, loyalty, and life which will hopefully eventually help me heal that wound and understand why I deserve better. In the meantime, ladies I do have some solid advice for you: do not buy puppies with guys named Nick.